A Movie About the “Father-Son Business”

To my eye, nothing is more powerful in films than the depiction of the love parents have for their children.  Sometimes this love pops up in unexpected cinematic places.

Unable to sleep this morning, still jet-lagged from my trip to the Holy Land, I watched what many consider to be Wim Wender’s masterpiece, “Paris, Texas.”  This 1984 film is one of the most visually stunning you will ever see, especially if viewed in its newly released Blu-ray format.

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In the film, Walt Henderson (Dean Stockwell) journeys from LA to Texas to retrieve his brother Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) who has reappeared after a four-year absence.  During that time, Walt and his wife Anne (Aurore Clement) have raised Travis’s son Hunter (Hunter Henderson) as their own.

Travis tries to reconnect with his son, at one point looking through a magazine for pictures of what a ‘father’ should look like.  With the help of a Latino housemaid, Travis puts on a three-piece suit and a hat from his brother’s closet and stands across the street from his son’s school with the hope his son will walk home with him. 

Their subsequent walk home is a luminous moment that succeeds in uniting father and son, but alarms Anne who fears what the loss of Hunter will mean to the future of her fragile marriage to Walt.  Hunter is their only child.

Anne’s fears are realized in an unexpected way when Travis and Hunter drive off to Houston from LA in search of Jane (Natassja Kinski), mother to Hunter, wife to Travis. She reveals to Travis that Jane has been depositing money each month in a bank account for Hunter, a fact that enables Travis to track her whereabouts.

Jane is found — Kinski has never looked more radiant and haunting than here — but in the kind of place where, well, Hunter must wait in the car.  

I remember seeing this film when it was released 26 years ago, and how it left me utterly confused, though I admired parts of it, especially Kinski’s command of a Texas accent. 

I have some grasp of “Paris, Texas” now — it’s striking how some books and movies don’t reveal themselves until you are ready.  This makes me recall the comment by critic George Steiner that it’s “not how many books you have that’s important, but how many you’ve re-read.” 

We need to re-read, or re-view, as it were, not because we have become better readers but because the reader has changed.

This trailer gives you a flavor of the film: [video:video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic_s0DDNoB8&feature=related 635×355]



  • Deal W. Hudson

    Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of “Church and Culture,” a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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